When something changes in San Antonio, it tends to freak people out. It’s a basketball franchise that the league sells as monotonous consistency, an automatic winning machine that both intimidates and inspires the rest of the NBA. So just like when Parker became the top MVP candidate on the roster, and when Ginobili was kicked out of the big three in favor of Leonard, all hell is breaking loose in Spurs media coverage with the recent production of Kawhi Leonard.
To be clear, it’s been a great year all around Kawhi, who’s spent the entire season rising his way up the Real Plus Minus page on ESPN.com. But he’s blossomed like a flower this Spring. Since March, Kawhi’s averaging around 19 points and 8 rebounds, and those are the numbers turning heads everywhere, scary ones indeed since people know his defense is still his best attribute. But these numbers are actually an understatement of what he’s truly been doing (and I hate to be so repetitive because this comes up when evaluating Spurs players so often)because of the minutes he’s playing. In fact, if you take Kawhi’s Per 36 Minutes statline since the start of March it looks like this:
22.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.4 SPG, 55% FG.
That’s right. The NBA’s best perimeter defender is scoring in high volumes with killer efficiency. Leonard has went from the quiet, defensive energy player to a basketball assassin. He shuts down the best player on your team and then hits fade-away jumpers on the other end, while also being the best rebounding small forward in the game (excluding Draymond Green, who plays most of his minutes at the four position.) The way “The Claw” has been playing lately just doesn’t even seem fair, as even his defense seems to be getting better lately to go with his expanded offensive game.
That’s probably why now every time an opponent passes the ball to the guy Kawhi’s on they have the same look on their faces that the kids from Sandlot had as they tried to convince Benny not to jump over the fence and retrieve Babe Ruth’s ball.